Dear Azami: Mogis, God of Slaughter

This week on Dear Azami, Cassidy looks at some of the difficulties of using seldom-seen Commander color combinations! In the process, he helps an ailing reader repair his underwhelming Mogis deck.

DEAR AZAMI: Mogis, God of…Hair-Metal?

Dear Azami,

I’ve wanted to build a deck around Mogis, God of the Slaughter for a while. He’s not my normal colors, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to build around a
Commander with such metal artwork and cool flavor.

As the God of Slaughter, I tried to build him around the idea of creature destruction. I wanted to have a large suite of cards that would destroy as many
creatures as people and make the wasteland a barren wasteland. I also wanted to have a small suite of cards that could reanimate creatures once all the
killing happened.

As it is now, I have all of the cards that do the job, the deck just seems to have a problem “getting there.” It tends to open really slow, and I’m not
really sure what to fix.

Mogis, God of Slaughter
Test deck on 06-03-2014
Magic Card Back

It’s an awesome deck flavorwise, but I feel like it needs something to give it an extra push. Thanks for looking at it!

– Cody

After writing about not ever building a Boros Commander deck in my Anax and Cymede article back in April (


), I decided to actually take stock and see what other color combinations I’ve actually never built before. Turns out, there are exactly four. Well, two at
the moment, because I’ve got a few new decks that slot into this area, but one is still waiting for pieces to show up, and the other is the reason that
I’ve decided to work on this article today.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

I have built every color combination at one time or another except for blue/black and red/white. I’m waiting for the finishing touches to arrive on a
white/blue Hanna, Ship’s Navigator that came together after discovering an unused Enchanted Evening and Opalescence sitting in my “pieces” box, and I have
this red/black Tsabo Tavok thing that has only seen two games and is giving me fits nonetheless; it is eerily similar to the Mogis list you submitted here
today, Cody.

Sorry…jumping ahead again. Let’s try a different angle here.

If someone put a gun to my head and told me I could never play a game of Commander ever again, I’d be fine with it. Actually, if someone offered me a few
hundred bucks and a $20 gas card, I’d probably be fine with it. (I’m a cheap date.) There are two reasons for this:

1. I’m a terrible player.

2. I’m a brewer.

I’m not the worst player to ever shuffle up a deck before, but I’m pretty lousy in pressure situations, and that leads to me being seriously prone to
bonehead plays. I’m the master at miscalculating combat math, making plays based on a series of moves that I saw in my head and omitting or incorrectly
ordering key components, and tunnel-visioning to the detriment of my entire game. I’m not sure if it’s nerves or what, but I’m just really bad at
maintaining lines of critical thought when I’m in a game, even on a casual level.

This is only incidental to the real reason I love this game and this format, which is brewing up new decks. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a
few different folders on my laptop that are filled with decklists past, present, and future. At any given time, I’m running several of them through my head
to try to polish them up. This is my Magic bread and butter; I could do it all day for months on end without ever sleeving a single card or sitting down to
play a single game, and I’d be content.

Maybe it’s the theory-crafting I appreciate. Maybe it’s my over-developed fear of confrontation, or perhaps it’s the deep concern that I’ll get so caught
up making enough mana for a lethal Drain Life that I’ll forget that my Swamps don’t make double mana yet due to the fact that I forgot to actually play the
Gauntlet of Power that makes it happen to begin with. Who knows. Give me a keyboard, Magiccards.info in an open browser window, and an idea or twelve, and
I’m all set.

Which gets us back to the beginning. In that Anax article, I mentioned that I have philosophical issues with Boros that prevents me from building red/white
decks. This is true, and I can’t get past it to save my life. For some reason, the same is true of Dimir; even though I love playing blue and black in
conjunction with another color, there’s just something about the color combination that does absolutely nothing for me. Mill isn’t my cup of tea since
Eldrazi are a thing and people are prepared for it in my meta. Also, at the risk of offending a ton of players out there, I feel like Dimir is really flat
in Commander. Tutors, draw, zombies, and a bunch of commanders that just don’t speak to me…I think it’s just that I can’t find an angle that actually
inspires me.

(It’s not you – it’s me.)

The same was true for house Azorius until just recently (like I said above), but I seem to be moving along now on that front. Rakdos, though, is another

After a flurry of recent building, I realized that I had a ton of red and black cards that were just sitting around collecting dust and getting older.
Cards like Massacre Wurm and Sneak Attack need to be in decks, right? Since that’s my typical inspiration (“Well, I can’t let that Debtors’ Knell just sit
in a box, can I? Might as well build an entire Orzhov deck so it isn’t lonely…”), I decided that I finally needed to entertain the idea of a red/black
deck. A little searching uncovered the fact that Tsabo Tavok was wholly unused in my metagame, so I snagged a foil copy.

And then sat on the pile of cards for a month, uninspired after all.

Fortunately, I remembered that Godo, Bandit Warlord was a thing, and suddenly there were visions of Tsabo diving into combat, utterly wrecking all the
other legends with the help of some serious pieces of equipment. I picked up Godo, a copy of Sword of Fire and Ice, and a copy of Sword of Light and

I then remembered that I hate playing equipment-centric decks, and that Tsabo is pretty fragile and expensive to cast, making it a pretty awful Voltron
strategy. Back in the box for another month.

Next up: Land destruction! Why not, right? Ramp is a big problem in my meta. I could put together a deck that seriously works to keep things “fair” by
policing the other players with a bunch of Strip Mine effects. Also, Death Cloud is awesome. I went out, bought a Fulminator Mage and a Goblin Settler and
dusted off copies of Helldozer and Demonic Hordes.

I then realized that the other players in my metagame hate land destruction as much as I do, and this deck would just make people miserable. I had this one
fully built for about ten minutes before this realization came to me, but that was all it took. I even Tweeted this:


This is the typical way things play out when I’m not really honestly invested in a deck. It is painful…and painfully boring to have to witness, I imagine.

Anyway, I did manage to pull together a creature-less list and try it out a few times. Sadly, it reaffirmed my fears. The first game was a flurry of
action, none of which was mine. I Rise from the Grave-d something, and Damnation-ed the board away at one point, but I spent a lot of time sitting and
looking at tempo answers while other players just kept doing things I couldn’t keep in check. I was a non-factor and lost without much fanfare.

Game 2 with the deck was even worse. I stalled on five lands for roughly twelve or thirteen turns, and a dedicated control deck on the other side of the
table meant that not much was happening anyway, so my Murder and Decree of Pain were basically just taking up space. Turns out board wipes are just
terrible when there’s no board. Again with the loss, the non-factor and fanfare thing.

Really long story short, Cody – I’m here today to work on your deck for a few reasons: I appreciate the difficulty in trying to build outside of your
normal box, and the build I have right now is pretty similar to yours, so I feel your pain. My hope is that in talking this through, I might push the both
of us to a better place.


Tempo is the root of all evil in Commander, and I suspect that it is what is submarining both of our efforts. Legacy is the poster child of the concept of
tempo. There, tempo means that you leverage your cards in a way that allows you an advantage in the long run, which usually equates to winning the game. It
is playing more effectively than your opponent in plain and simple terms.

In Commander (or at least the Commander that isn’t spoken in native French), there is an “s” on the end of “opponent”. That simple little letter is enough
to rewrite the concept of tempo from the ground up.

People talk about Commander in terms of words like “battlecruiser” and “epic”, because expensive cards, epic plays, and groundbreaking effects are the
norm. This is tempo in Commander. Because life totals are doubled, and there are multiple players all looking for the opening to go big and take things
down, tempo takes on a whole new meaning. Very frequently, you’ll hear people say things like “spot removal is terrible in this format”; that’s not exactly
the whole truth, but there’s some good logic at work.

In Legacy, Standard, or any other one-on-one format, a Swords to Plowshares basically says, “Counter target creature.” The converse is true as well. In
Commander, however, it says, “Counter target creature. Hope the other players don’t have something better to immediately beat you over the head with.”
Board wipes are at a premium because you can’t police multiple players and hope to maintain parity like you would otherwise. You’ll fall behind, because
there are several other people building questions for you to answer all at once, instead of just one.

Sometimes, Wrath of God isn’t even enough. That’s why I stand by “synergy” as the single most-important word in the format.

You need to build engines because you need every card to be more than the sum of its casting cost to stay even with your opponents. We’ve talked about
enchantress-style decks in weeks past, and I love the example. Instead of Swords to Plowshares killing off a creature, Soul Snare plays the part of
rattlesnake to prevent attacks, while also drawing you a card off of Verduran Enchantress. That card is Aura Shards, which now destroys an artifact or
enchantment every time you play a new creature. If that creature is from Theros block, chances are good it’s an enchantment, drawing you another card off
of your enchantress in the process of blowing something up and netting you a beater or another utility option. When things are humming along, you’re seeing
a four-fold advantage off of every card in your deck.

Synergy. Say it with me, kids.

The big problem with red/black decks is that they tend to be very power-forward, but lack in synergy on the back end. Black is the master of removal; you
have all of the best board wipes and all of the best pieces of spot removal, and often they pack a bigger punch than they otherwise would. (Phthisis says

After the spell resolves, though, there’s not much left standing. There are a million ways to kill things off, but not a heck of a lot to follow up with
that doesn’t involve playing your own creature. This is why zombies are a strong strategy, since they come in multiples, and also why Kaervek the Merciless
(whom I see is wisely included in the list above) tends to be the strongest commander in Rakdos colors; he has built-in synergy with every single card your
opponents play.

There’s a reason that Phyrexian Reclamation and Goblin Bombardment are so frequently played.

This, for the record, is why my Tsabo Tavok deck sucks as badly as it does. By going creatureless, I’ve cut off a huge amount of my potential for finishing
games, and a massive amount of potential synergy. Sure, half the deck can kill opposing creatures, but once that happens, I’m staring at an empty board, on
equal footing with my opponents, but tapped out and waiting for them to get started again. My Plague Wind didn’t wipe their creatures out; their creatures
essentially were sacrificed to Time Walk me. And when my few pieces of reanimation kick in, the enchantress player is four cards up on me when he removes

This is the heart of the issue in building Rakdos. If you don’t work towards something more than the sum of the parts of the deck, you end up with a lot of
neutral trades and no good path to victory.


The other inherent problem with this color combination is that everything is expensive. Look at the list above; other than Dragonmaster Outcast, the
creature mana curve starts at four and goes up from there (and you’re not playing Disciple of Bolas on turn four!) There are X-spells that need a
significant mana investment to really be brought to bear. It wants to win with Insurrection and Rise of the Dark Realms. I’m not sure I need to say more
here. Everything the deck does is expensive, and that takes us back to the tempo discussion. If you’re not getting value elsewhere, you’re trading
expensive spells to stay at parity with other players.

This really means that mana acceleration also needs to be better than the sum of its parts as well. As much as I love the various Medallions, they’re
basically just half of a Mind Stone if the deck can’t afford more than one card per turn. These decks are big-mana decks almost without exception, no
matter what you’re trying to actually accomplish. The fixing needs to matter, and the land count needs to be high.

Mana is an Achilles heel for Rakdos decks, and something we need to pay serious attention to as we get further along.


That gets us to the actual changes we’re going to make to your deck today, Cody. Here’s where we’re at:


· Threats are solid

· Removal is solid

· Good devotion enablers in place

· Some strong high end answers and win conditions

· Mogis is very metal


· Super-high mana curve

· Not much in the way of tempo

· Needs better synergy

· Needs improved draw

· Mana fixing stands to be improved

· Land count could be higher

· The band Mogis is named after is not very metal, all things considered (as evidenced here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukmobha2krY)

Mogis might want to check into that last one…


As per my usual method, land is up first.

OUT: Crypt of Agadeem

I’m going to actively be looking to increase the number of creatures in the deck if I can, but as it stands now, you don’t run enough to where this card is
going to ever get you any real mana acceleration. The things you run are meant to stick and make a difference, and the number alone means you won’t often
be in position to leverage this land even on the back of a big board sweeper.

IN: High Market, Mountain

On that note, you need to have a way to sacrifice your creatures. This should go hand in hand these days with things like graveyard hate and card draw. If
someone manages to steal Mogis from you, you’re going to be seriously hurting trying to win out from under him, and he also represents one of your best
threats, so protect him from thieves.

I count 99 cards including your commander, so I’m taking the extra slot to add a basic Mountain to get the land count up a bit more.

Since we’re here, let’s talk about the acceleration/mana fixing package next.

OUT: Charcoal Diamond, Fire Diamond, Coldsteel Heart, Jet Medallion, Ruby Medallion, Rakdos Signet

Yeah…we’re cutting the whole thing and starting from scratch.

Like I said above, this deck is super mana-hungry, and most of these rocks provide a single mana, or a single-mana discount. Charcoal Diamond, Fire
Diamond, and Coldsteel Heart are all enters-the-battlefield tapped producers, which is a particular sticking point for me to begin with, but from there,
they don’t actually accelerate you anywhere. I want to get at least a Sol Ring’ worth of return from my rocks – or at the least, I don’t want them to blow
up when the board gets wiped.

Rakdos Signet is closer due to the ability to better fix your mana, but again, we’re talking a minor increase in production, and it goes up in smoke to
artifact removal.

That leaves the Medallions. Once again, these things are no better than the Diamonds if you’re only casting a single spell each turn, and this deck isn’t
doing much better than that. I was talking to one of my co-writers about this, and he mentioned that in his Talrand, Sky Summoner deck, Sapphire Medallion
basically reads, “Tap, add UUUUUUU to your mana pool.” I run the Sapphire and Ruby in my Melek, Izzet Paragon deck, and I see similar results.

It won’t happen here, so I want something more permanent if anything

IN: Veinfire Borderpost, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Journeyer’s Kite, Expedition Map, Executioner’s Capsule, Salvaging Station

“If anything” is the key part of that statement above.

Yeah – you read it correctly. We’re adding the Salvaging Station package to the deck. We talked heavily above about synergy and engines, and this card is a
two-for-one, which again is really hard in these colors.

Your deck is designed to make creatures die, and Salvaging Station is a fantastic way to take full advantage of that. Things should be dropping like flies
left and right, and any of the options here will be a card advantage engine once you start untapping Station multiple times a turn.

You have your mana fixers. Wayfarer’s Bauble is dropping your basic lands directly into play, while Expedition Map is giving you the option to run out any
land in your deck – this gives you acceleration (Cabal Coffers, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx), pinpoint land destruction (Tectonic Edge), graveyard hate (Bojuka
Bog), or even any of your dual mana color sources for fixing.

You have Executioner’s Capsule. As long as you have the mana, you have a way to machine-gun through every targetable creature on the board in one fell
swoop. This is the signature Salvaging Station interaction for the deck.

We’ll have more to add to the package later on (as we’re still lacking direct graveyard hate and a decent way to turn this into a draw engine), but this is
a powerful start.

Taking a queue from this, we’re running Journeyer’s Kite. Where the other Diamonds and Medallions play fair in the mana generation engine, this will allow
you to both keep hitting your land drops without fail, and also to fix your mana to your hearts’ content.

Veinfire Borderpost doesn’t break the one-mana rule, but it does go a long way towards paying Mogis’ devotion cost. This is a worth-while place to take a
run at getting arguably your strongest threat online. Again, the best way to keep Mogis in attacking and blocking form is to utilize devotion enablers that
aren’t dropping dead to your board wipes, so I’ll leverage things like the Borderpost all day long.

Let’s look at your planeswalker quotient next.

OUT: Sarkhan the Mad

This is the wrong place for this Sarkhan. Again, we discussed mana curve. His 0-cost activation runs a great chance of killing him outright, but will
guarantee that it becomes way easier in any case for your opponents to finish the job. I’m not sure where you’re throwing the dragons with the -2 ability,
since most of your creatures are better that a 5/5 flier to begin with. And without some serious help from Dragonmaster Outcast (which dies to a stiff
breeze), you’re not getting enough value for the -4 ability to matter.

IN: Necropotence

The infamous skull makes the scene. Necro is exactly what this deck wants: it provides a great shot in the arm on the turn it comes down, and will likely
go a long way towards winning the game outright even if the other players inexplicably leave it alone. Secondly, it does a great job helping Mogis find his
devotion. A bit good-stuffy and low-hanging? Sure. But it fits.

OUT: Seething Song

This is not a Storm deck. Bad acceleration is bad.

IN: Gratuitous Violence

Again, we’re replacing Song with a solid devotion enabler that does exactly what you need your deck to do – hit twice as hard as it normally does. Since
your threats are few and far between – and not very protectable – you need them to do maximum damage right out of the gate. This is awesome with Mogis on
both sides of the equation, by the way. Are creatures worth four damage? Is Mogis a two-shot commander damage kill?

Solid. This is the synergy you’re looking for. And I’m considering pulling Tsabo for a better option all of a sudden…

OUT: Doom Blade

This is a quick and easy functional upgrade.

IN: Murder

One extra mana, no limitations. That’s better.

OUT: Shattering Spree

I don’t hate this card; in fact, it can be an absolute beating given the right circumstances and enough red mana. I simply want a more permanent solution
in the slot.

IN: Viashino Heretic

Broken record says “Devotion enabler!” In this case, that’s a valid statement, and it gains some solid potential damage too. For the record, one of the
most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had with this card was against an opponent with a Darksteel Forge in play…

Moving on…

OUT: Rakdos’s Return

This card is a fantastic example of the tempo problem we discussed earlier. While it was a beating for a while in Standard, this is a card that will
effectively force you to tap out to nail one player’s hand completely. You’ve now drawn the ire of that person for the remainder of the game (and discard
is sometimes very much frowned upon), but you’ve also alerted all of the other players – who still have full hands, by the way – that you might be
targeting them next. Good luck with that.

IN: Pain Magnification

I’m not saying that a little hand disruption isn’t a good idea, however. Pain Magnification fits the bill better here; you’re (ahem) enabling devotion
while also taking small jabs at everyone here and there with damage you were going to deal anyway. (Synergy! Enchantress! Dead Horse!) It’s a small
up-front effect, but it will add up over time.

OUT: Killing Wave

I’m simply never a fan of drawing removal that may or may not actually remove anything. If I’m going to tap out to sweep the board, I’d rather it be
something like Decree of Pain for the card draw or Plague Wind for the definitive enemy wipe that leaves my board completely alone.

IN: Plague Wind

…Hey! Look at that.

OUT: Do or Die

I love the flavor with Do or Die. I really do. But it suffers from the same problem that Killing Wave does; if I do my homework, I can guarantee that I
remove the second-best creature my opponent controls, and I may be able to get a two or three-for-one out of it, but I won’t kill the thing I really want to kill.

Great card name, though.

IN: No Mercy

I’m not even going to say the first part, but you know…well, yeah. It does that.

No Mercy is also a great rattlesnake card. It is removal you need to work a bit for, but your opponents will need to think long and hard about pointing a
creature in your direction. It gives Mogis breathing room, which is critical for this deck to set up and get into motion.

OUT: Demonfire

I’m going out on a limb and assuming this is for the flavor, in which case I approve. It might be a metagame choice too, in which case I can also approve.
Otherwise, it’s an X-spell that only hits one target. Sure, it’s an exile effect, but I’m not blown away on that front.

IN: Dread

Doubling up on the No Mercy effect seems like a solid thing to do, and this one comes with a six-power evasive body that re-buys itself. Plus, it has three
black mana symbols in the upper-right corner. That’s gotta be good for something…

OUT: Bonfire of the Damned

This one falls prey to the casting cost. You don’t have any real top-of-library manipulation happening, so unless you rip this at exactly the right moment,
you’re looking to pay a ton of mana to do like three damage to another player and their team. You already run board wipes that do it better and cheaper.

IN: Nihil Spellbomb

As previously alluded to. Nihil adds solid graveyard removal to your Salvaging Station suite, and brings an element of card draw as well. In a pinch, even
an empty graveyard will give you a card for one black mana, and that’s not half bad. This is a really strong potential draw engine.

OUT: Black Sun’s Zenith

Any board wipe that can actually take out an active Mogis as collateral damage is no good.

IN: Massacre Wurm

I do like a good solid way to deal with token swarms, though, and nobody does it better. The potential for game-ending damage is always very real with
Massacre Wurm.

Plus…well, you get it.

OUT: Rain of Gore

Rain is sadly a serious non-bo with both Whip of Erebos and Bloodchief Ascension, and both are very strong elements of your arsenal.

IN: Ascendant Evincar

Massacre Wurm-lite. Adds to the party, flies, and can beat a little in a pinch. Something something devotion something.

Let’s talk about the creature section a bit before we finish up…

OUT: Rakdos, Lord of Riots

I’m not crazy about Rakdos here, if for no other reason than you don’t really run enough ways to meet his casting requirement other than attacking. By the
time that happens, you’re likely going to have better things to do, because the discount ability isn’t really going to matter much in this deck by the

IN: Rakdos Carnarium

At least we can deliver on his hangout. The two mana and the fixing make the O.G. Ravnica bounce lands a good value and see a ton of format play for good

OUT: Myojin of Night’s Reach

Again, we’re getting back to the realm of mass discard here, and the black Myojin is way worse than Rakdos’s Return. Remember – the point of the format is
to have fun, and when you’re the only one able to actually play, that’s not happening for anyone.

It’s too bad, too. The irony is Myojin is an indestructible threat, and goes a long way towards making Mogis one as well.

IN: Hammer of Purphuros

If you’re in red, you should be making the most of having haste at your disposal. Urabrask the Hidden is in already, but a little redundancy never hurt,
and this one makes good use of extra lands by recycling them into golems. That’s value!

OUT: Master of Cruelties

I’m far less interested in this thing getting plunked down via an early Kaalia of the Vast beatdown. Still, I supported the Rules Committee banning
Worldfire because it effectively invalidated whatever happened in the game up until it was played, and Master does nearly the same thing for a single
player. The cheeky deathtouch/first strike combo seems like R&D thumbing their noses at us as well, which doesn’t help to endear it any further.

IN: Syphon Mind

I want to see more card draw in this deck, and the main issue with black card draw is that it nearly always hurts. Syphon Mind is one of the exceptions to
this rule, and strangely enough, I’ve very rarely seen anyone get angry over the discard.

OUT: Defiler of Souls

God, how many times have I tried to make this thing work? The trick of it is that it just isn’t as strong as it seems in Commander. Worse yet, in this
deck, you’re opening yourself up to way too much friendly fire. Defiler is the last cut of the day.

IN: Fleshbag Marauder

Fleshbag is a nice alternate to Defiler of Souls. It will always have an effect, and it is always able to sac itself to contain the splash damage. This
card should see way more play than it does.

And that completes the deck!


This is where the changes put us:

General: Mogis, God of Slaughter

Mogis, God of Slaughter
Cassidy McAuliffe
Test deck on 06-03-2014

Here’s the list of new additions, complete with price tags (should you want to enact the changes I suggested to some extent):

We’re talking about $55 to run the full upgrade. That’s a pretty reasonable price tag for a good chunk of added utility and flexibility. As
always, for participating in today’s Dear Azami, you’ll be receiving a $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com to help with the

Again, it’s hard to reinvent the wheel when talking about adding synergy to a Rakdos deck, so I think you need to start with the added card
advantage and threats and take it from there. It’s difficult to come to terms with a Salvaging Station package in a deck that can’t get
Station back if it gets blown up, but it isn’t like the individual pieces aren’t good; your ability to deal with graveyards improves, you
get removal, and you get improved mana fixing, so it’s still solid in a worst-case scenario.

Best case, you’ve got a chain-gun for a removal engine. I strongly urge you to make this change.

There it is, Cody. I hope this fits the bill for you, and I may try a few of these options in my pile of a Tsabo Tavok deck as well. It’s
got nowhere to go but up, so it can’t hurt.

Man…gotta love Rakdos.


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